Gene Hackman as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, gruff NYPD narcotics detective
Brooklyn, December 1970
Film: The French Connection
Release Date: October 9, 1971
Director: William Friedkin
Costume Designer: Joseph Fretwell III
To celebrate this weekend’s Academy Awards ceremony, BAMF Style is looking at The French Connection, which took home five Oscars in 1972 including Best Picture and – for Gene Hackman’s portrayal of unorthodox narc “Popeye” Doyle – Best Actor. It was the first R-rated movie to win the coveted Best Picture award, and its gritty realism set the tone for one of the greatest decades in American filmmaking.
(Unfortunately for this year’s Best Picture winner, I don’t see writing about Michael Keaton’s tighty-whities anytime in the near future.)
A few months ago, I wrote a post about Doyle’s off-duty attire during the film’s famous car chase. With only a few exceptions, Popeye spends most of the film wearing a wrinkled suit and his now signature porkpie hat, often layering up with enough outerwear to keep him warm during the cold Brooklyn winter.
What’d He Wear?
After we first meet Popeye while sporting his red Santa suit and beating up some local toughs, we next see him at the station dressed in more conventional cop attire – a suit and tie. This suit is a warm light caramel shade of brown and is more a throwback to the slim ’60s than the excessively wide ’70s, which was still not uncommon in 1971 (especially for an old-fashioned roughneck like Popeye Doyle).
The jacket is single-breasted with slim notch lapels and a low 3-button front. It has a welted breast pocket, flapped straight hip pockets, padded shoulders, 2-button cuffs, and a short rear vent.
Popeye’s matching suit trousers are flat front with cuffed bottoms that break high over his shoes. They are held in place by a dark brown leather belt with a small brass single-prong buckle.
Popeye always wears a white dress shirt with his suits, although he rarely has it buttoned up to the slim, spread collar. His shirts have front plackets, breast pockets, and squared cuffs that close on a button. They tend to “rumple” out over the low rise of his trousers.
Three different ties are seen with this suit. The first is a slim silk dark brown tie with three diagonal stripes crossing from right-down-to-left in the center. The top stripe is gold while the two thinner stripes beneath it are cream.
Popeye’s second tie is busier (or “frantic”, as Roger Moore’s Bond would describe it) with a salmon, pink, and white pattern of intercrossing stripes. Finally, the third tie worn with the suit is plain dark red.
He wears two pairs of brown shoes with the suit. The first pair seen are the same light brown suede 2-eyelet chukka boots that he wears in the famous chase sequence with his duffel-style pea coat. When he spiffs up for the bar room raid, he wears a pair of well-worn dark burgundy leather plain toe bluchers. He always wears high black cotton socks, ignoring the standard sartorial practice of matching socks to trousers… not that he’s the type who would care about that anyway.
He carries his 2″-barreled Colt Detective Special .38 on a dark brown leather ankle holster, strapped to the outside of his right ankle.
This suit is introduced in tandem with Popeye’s iconic porkpie hat. Forty years before the world had ever heard of Heisenberg (or at least that Heisenberg), Popeye Doyle was cleaning up the streets of New York City with a dark brown felt porkpie on his head. A brief flash of the white inner lining at the bar shows what is likely a manufacturer’s label and a size tag… perhaps reading 7 3/8?
Can any eagle-eyed readers figure out the maker of Popeye’s hat?
Popeye’s wristwatch is a gold Timex Marlin, identified by the guys at Watches in Movies. It has a white analog dial and is worn on a gold expanding bracelet. According to marketing of the era (and earlier), the Marlin was a basic watch designed for more rugged blue-collar types like mechanics or farmers. It’s certainly a good choice for a no-frills tough guy like Popeye Doyle.
As the story takes place around Christmas, Popeye’s many stakeouts are conducted in cold weather. He bundles up with a knee-length topcoat in dark brown wool with a 3-button, single-breasted front. The sleeves are half-cuffed with a single non-functioning button. Like the suit jacket he wears underneath, it has slim notch lapels.
When it is especially cold, Popeye dons a pair of dark brown cotton knit gloves and a blue-gray herringbone scarf with frayed edges.
How to Get the Look
Sean Connery may have slept in his suits to prepare for his role as James Bond, but Popeye Doyle’s suits actually look slept-in. If you’re going for that “I’m wearing a suit and I don’t give a good goddamn who knows it” look, Popeye is your guy to emulate. You just may want to consider cutting back on the racial epithets.
- Light caramel brown suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with slim notch lapels, 3-button front, welted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single rear vent
- Flat front low rise trousers with belt loops and turn-ups/cuffed bottoms
- White dress shirt with slim spread collar, front placket, breast pocket, and squared button cuffs
- Slim silk necktie
- Popeye wears a variety of ties with this suit including a salmon cross-striped tie, plain dark red tie, and a brown tie with center stripes
- Dark brown leather belt with brass single-prong buckle
- Brown laced shoes
- Popeye wears both light brown suede 2-eyelet chukkas and a dressier pair of dark burgundy leather plain-toe derby shoes
- Black cotton high rise socks
- Dark brown felt porkpie hat with wide ribbon and white lining
- Dark brown wool knee-length single-breasted topcoat with slim notch lapels, 3-button front, flapped hip pockets, half-cuffed 1-button sleeves, and single rear vent
- Blue-gray herringbone wool scarf with frayed edges
- Dark brown cotton knit gloves
- Timex analog wristwatch with white dial on expanding gold bracelet
- Brown leather RHD ankle holster, for 2″-barreled .38 revolver
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. Also, if you’re a fan of Gene Hackman’s acting – have you ever read one of the books he’s authored? He’s actually a pretty good fiction writer! I read Pursuit at the beach last summer and certainly plan on reading more.
All right! You put a shiv in my partner. You know what that means? Goddammit! All winter long I got to listen to him gripe about his bowling scores. Now I’m gonna bust your ass for those three bags and I’m gonna nail you for picking your feet in Poughkeepsie.